Make a list of your obsessions…

I have a thing for wailing women.

Like so:

And like so:

And yet again:

Extra points when they have red hair. Double extra points when they wail on Conan.

But my favorite wailer of late:

This video makes me fully appreciate how insanely hard it must be to both play the harp and sing those crazy vocal melodies at the same time. Nutso. But splendid.

 

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I love me some Andrew Sullivan…

Especially when he’s so damn dramatic, yet eloquent:

“I’m reminded of the moral courage of my partner, who encourages me everyday to continue to put on that uniform; who believes that some things are worthy of our energies; who quietly plods along and prepares for my deployment as I do the same. I know as a soldier, it is the people we leave behind who bear the real brunt of deployment, who hold it all together, who send the care packages and pray for our returns. He’ll have to do it on his own though. There are no support groups for the gay partners left back home.

In the meantime, gay soldiers who are still serving in silence will continue to put on our rucksacks and do what our country asks of us –- and wait,” – an American soldier, with a knife in his back.

Remove it.

2010 in books…

Yes, it’s true, I spent a large part of this past year reading, due to my persistent joblessness combined with my love of procrastination from my writing.

Re-read:

  1. On Writing by Stephen King and Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott, both out of desperation.
  2. Pillars of the Earth out of boredom (still jobless) and a broken ankle.
  3. Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett. Because it is stunningly beautiful and because I re-read it every year.

The best books I read this year (although they weren’t necessarily published this year:

  1. Border Songs by Jim Lynch. So so so gorgeous.
  2. American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld. Loved it. Recommended it to everyone under the sun.
  3. Lit by Mary Karr. One of the memoirs that didn’t suck.
  4. The Possessed by Elif Batuman. Just smarty smart smart. And hilarious.
  5. The Wave by Susan Casey. Super interesting. Super well researched and written.
  6. And Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris. Funny. Heartbreaking.
  7. Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace. I can’t believe I only got to it this year. So good.
  8. Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bible by Jonathan Goldstein. So incredible. I was just buzzing for days after reading it.

Decent books I read this year:

  1. Life Would be Perfect if I Lived in that House – Meghan Daum. Interesting but stressful.
  2. Zoe Whittall’s book that I can’t remember the name of it. I reviewed it somewhere on this blog.
  3. The Night of the Gun by David Carr. Addiction memoir, but still good.
  4. Girl with the Hornets Nests Whatever by Stieg Larsson. Not a bad little trilogy, not bad at all. And by little, I mean several thousand pages in all.

Sucky-ish books I read this year, but still finished for some strange reason:

  1. And the Heart Says Whatever by Emily Gould. Self-indulgent and weenie and yet oddly compelling.
  2. Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert.  See above.
  3. Cleaving by Julie Powell. See above.

*Note the above are all memoirs written by a certain class of white woman. Not saying that women don’t write good memoirs (see Mary Karr, Elif Batuman and Ann Patchett). But still. Let’s say sixty percent of memoirs, written by both men and women should just be ignored.

Knee-jerk.

Whereas I believe that the real – and undeclared – ideology of American journalism is savviness, and this is what has made the press so vulnerable to the likes of Karl Rove… Deep down, that’s what reporters want to believe in and actually do believe in – their own savviness and the savviness of certain others (including operators like Rove). In politics, they believe it is better to be savvy than it is to be honest or correct on the facts… Savviness, the quality of being shrewd, practical, well-informed, perceptive, ironic, ‘with-it’, and unsentimental in all things political – is in a sense, their professional religion. They make a cult of it. And it was this cult that Rove understood and exploited for political gain.                           – Jay Rosen

Cynicism is toxic. I know this because I’ve been poisoning myself for the last several years, in a way that David Foster Wallace seems to understand spookily well. So what I’ve done this afternoon is put on some very sincere neo-folk (Joanna Newsom, Sondre Lerche, and the Tallest Man on Earth make up the soundtrack to this post), irony-free music. I’m in that squishy disclosure phase that comes annually, where I feel the need to parse out what “my problem” is in front of the whole internet.  See prior examples here and here.

What brought this on, out of the blue? Elizabeth Edwards died yesterday and here’s why that makes me extra sad: I am so cynical that I thought she didn’t even have cancer. I thought it was a PR stunt, a political strategy, a ploy for sympathy, a battle plan, etc etc.

Does this make me a bad person? Maybe. I imagine DFW, a writer I greatly admire, would be disappointed (ignoring the fact that if DFW were still alive, he would have more important things to be disappointed in, but I digress). He heartily and eloquently fought against cynicism in a lot of his essays and in his fiction. He wrote a brilliant article while on the campaign trail with McCain in 2000:

But if you, like poor old Rolling Stone, have come to a point on the  Trail where you’ve started fearing your own cynicism almost as much as you fear your own credulity and the salesmen who feed on it, you may find your thoughts returning again and again, to a certain dark and box-sized cell in a certain Hilton half a world and three careers away, to the torture and fear and offer of release and a certain Young Voter named McCain’s refusal to violate a code. There were no tech’s cameras in that box, no aides or consultants, no paradoxes or grey areas, nothing to sell. There was just one guy and whatever in his character sustained him.

But DFW didn’t have to watch McCain do this:

There has been a turn away from cynicism and a fairly widespread critique of the “savviness”-obsessed press of late, mostly coming from Jon Stewart and the Rally to Restore Sanity crowd, which I can appreciate, but it really seemed lackluster and well, dare I say, insincere. I haven’t been blogging much and linking the usual examples of craziness/sanity lately because I’ve been so disheartened and cynical about every news story I come across, I can’t really see the point in it. I’m not throwing in the towel (there’s still TNC, Sullivan and Maddow, after all), but I’m not sure how to proceed from here. I’m working on a statement of interest for  a master’s application, in journalism, and it’s no wonder I’ve been dwelling on this stuff.

Elizabeth Edwards really did have cancer, and she died of it. Now, maybe she was a saint, as some in the press are making her out to be, Hillary Clinton – but even better and even smarter –  or maybe she was an abusive, controlling harpie as the authors of Game Change would have you believe. I don’t know, I’ve never met the women. I saw her on Oprah once. I can’t say.

But where should I go from here?

Jesus Price, anyone?

An academic at the Universite de Montreal is writing a book on the Habs culture as religion. Praise the Lord:

With the Habs religion, what is very particular is that it is a religion of Montreal and of Quebec. It’s the same as in every other sport; to make the gods play with the Habs. But it’s in a very Catholic way and in a very Quebecker way. For the Habs, the way you pray is the Catholic way because the culture of Quebec is very Catholic. For example, during the playoffs, there are people who go to the Oratoire St. Joseph and they [kneel] because it is the Catholic way to ask for something from God. It takes a Catholic face because we are in Montreal. But probably if you are Jewish or Protestant or atheist you can have another kind of a relation [to the sport].